In what appear to be the first criminal charges to stem from the fracas over improper foreclosures last year, two Southern California title loan officers have been indicted by a Nevada grand jury for allegedly filing tens of thousands of improper documents related to Las Vegas-area foreclosures.
The Clark County grand jury charged Gary Trafford, 49, of Irvine and Geraldine Sheppard, 62, of Santa Ana on 606 counts, alleging that the two headed up a vast “robo-signing” operation that resulted in the filing of tens of thousands of fraudulent foreclosure documents.
The documents were filed with the Clark County recorder’s office between 2005 and 2008, according to the indictment. The two title loan officers worked for the firm Lender Processing Services, a foreclosure processing company based in Florida that has been used by most of the largest banks in the nation to process home repossessions.
"I am not allowed to speak with you. I have no comment at this time," Sheppard said when reached by phone. Trafford could not be reached for comment.
The two have not been arrested, a spokeswoman for Nevada Atty. Gen. Catherine Cortez Masto told The Associated Press. LPS said in a statement that it is working with the authorities.
The company, in its statement, acknowledged that some of its documents were flawed but said the documents did not result in wrongful foreclosures.
“I am deeply committed to ensuring that LPS meets rigorous standards of professional conduct and operating excellence,” LPS Chief Executive Hugh Harris said in the statement. “I have full confidence in the ability of our leadership team and over 8,000 dedicated employees to deliver on that commitment."
Trafford is charged with 102 counts of offering false instruments for recording, a felony; false certification on certain instrument, a felony; and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public, a misdemeanor.
Sheppard is charged with 100 counts of offering false instruments for recording, a felony; false certification on certain instruments, a felony; and notarization of the signature of a person not in the presence of a notary public, a misdemeanor.
The indictment says that two title loan officers directed the fraudulent notarization and filing of paperwork used to initiate foreclosure on homeowners in the Las Vegas area. Nevada alleges that the two directed their employees to forge foreclosure documents, notarize the signatures on the documents they had forged and then file the fraudulent paperwork with the Clark County recorder's office in order to begin foreclosures on homes throughout the county.
-- Alejandro Lazo
Photo: A foreclosure sign in front of a bank-owned home for sale in Las Vegas. Credit: Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images